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The Military United States

Combat Lasers To Be Added To US Fighter Jets (nextbigfuture.com) 208

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NextBigFuture: The US Air Force plans to arm its fleet of drones and fighter jets with high-tech laser weapons.... Ground testing of a laser weapon called the High Energy Laser, or HEL, was slated to take place last year at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, service officials said...

The Air Force plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35. Instead of flying with six or seven missiles on an aircraft, a directed energy weapons system could fire thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel.

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Combat Lasers To Be Added To US Fighter Jets

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  • Pew Pew Pew (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zenlessyank ( 748553 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @08:38AM (#52074687)
    Gotcha Bitch!!!!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09, 2016 @08:41AM (#52074699)

    Ground testing of a laser weapon called the High Energy Laser

    It will also be referred to by some as the High-Powered Laser, or "HP Laser" for short, and jets with this type of weapon mounted upon them shall be known as HP Laser Jets

  • Wiki: "A one megajoule laser pulse delivers roughly the same energy as 200 grams of high explosive, and has the same basic effect on a target."

    Interesting stuff, and since we get a lot of our tech from gargantuan military budgets, it will be even more interesting to see what trickles down.

    As opposed to weapons of destruction, lasers plausibly hold more promise disrupting communications in battle.

    • by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @08:54AM (#52074765)

      The thing is current hel are 10 kilowatt and are the size of a car(often towed behind a Humvee)

      To get to the mega joule requires a lot more fuel than a gallon of jet gas.

      • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

        You sure about that? I remember seeing a documentary [imdb.com] back in the 80s where they were able to get 5MW into a plane. It might not have been a pulsed laser though...

      • The thing is current hel are 10 kilowatt and are the size of a car(often towed behind a Humvee)

        To get to the mega joule requires a lot more fuel than a gallon of jet gas.

        Then theres the issue of beyond visual range engagements, which is where most of the action happens these days and where missiles excel. If your fighter carries a laser and no missiles you better hope your laser can shoot down their missiles, which they will be firing at you from over the horizon where your laser cannot reach.

        Oh wait I guess you could fit a rail gun on your f35

        • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

          You're right, although, if they actually do get lasers right, you could have one plane shoot down missiles that are fired BVR. That would then require the opposition force to close to visual range to intercept the incoming.

          Of course, nobody has really mentioned ground-based laser anti-aircraft weaponry, which is much, much more feasible than jet lasers, and would have both the stability, and the ability to have a big generator to actually fire those thousands of high power shots per minute. Then all you n

          • You're right, although, if they actually do get lasers right, you could have one plane shoot down missiles that are fired BVR. That would then require the opposition force to close to visual range to intercept the incoming.

            Of course, nobody has really mentioned ground-based laser anti-aircraft weaponry, which is much, much more feasible than jet lasers, and would have both the stability, and the ability to have a big generator to actually fire those thousands of high power shots per minute. Then all you need is BVR radar and you can pick off thousands of incoming missiles as soon as they enter visual range.

            A jet is a much better firing platform for a laser weapon, mostly because a jet always has a look-down ability to ensure they have line of sight on a target, but an AA weapon with sufficient visibility would seem a much better first project for the technology.

            I guess its totally feasible to have an anti-missile laser system on an aircraft but I doubt you'd want the same laser system for antimissile work as you want for air to air combat or air to ground, so that means your F35 now has to carry two or more laser systems around and complicates things even more. Having specialist anti-missile laser carrying aircraft might be an option, but again thats complicating things more.

        • Then theres the issue of beyond visual range engagements, which is where most of the action happens these days and where missiles excel.

          Except when you need to actually have positive target identification. Shooting a missile over the horizon can work but it's a lot harder to be certain you aren't blowing up the wrong target. Missiles have gotten better but target ID is still and problem and they still put guns on fighters for a reason. The F22 has a 20mm cannon and they aren't getting rid of it in the near future.

          Plus direct line of sight for a laser system can be beyond visual range for a human eye.

          If your fighter carries a laser and no missiles you better hope your laser can shoot down their missiles, which they will be firing at you from over the horizon where your laser cannot reach.

          I don't think it is an either/or thing

        • Then theres the issue of beyond visual range engagements, which is where most of the action happens these days ...

          No. "They" have been saying that since the 1960s and it never works out that way. Pilots nearly always end up being told to get visual IDs. One major exception during an Arab/Israeli conflict (1970s), massive friendly fire incidents. Shooting down your own aircraft returning from a strike, mistaking them for an inbound enemy strike.

          This long range missile engagement idea is why they had the early F-4 models with no guns. What a mistake. One that is not being repeated with the F22 and F35. Lasers might of

      • Now if we only had a plane that could carry a gun the size of a car.... oh wait.

        http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_J0Li... [blogspot.com]

        A-10.

      • You are wrong. The energy density of jet fuel is 34.7 MJ/l, which gives us 131.4 MJ/gal. If you convert to kWh, you get 36.5 kWh. This is 131353.8 kWs. The target power is 100 kW, hence you get 1313 1 second shots from a jet fuel gallon. Each shot is probably below 1 second and this is the theoretical peak. So, it is theoretically feasible to get a few thousands shots from a gallon of jet fuel.
    • by Dareth ( 47614 )

      Just let me know when I get to cut my hedges with laser shears. Or better yet, cut my whole yard in one burst!

    • They'll probably disrupt more than communication: It's obviously impolite to mention this, much less suggest that it's a feature rather than a tragic side-effect of trying to score a good, honest, shooting-down of an opposition aircraft; but a laser powerful enough to be useful against an airframe at nontrivial distance is definitely in the 'do not look into with remaining eye' category. At great distances, it will merely be dazzling(if in the visible band), since being illuminated will expose every tiny sc
      • I'd imagine that, while the US is among the relatively few capable of miniaturizing a laser powerful enough to actually cause aircraft damage on a fighter plane...

        We have to assume once the technology genie is out of the lamp, the weaponization of lasers would proliferate.

        If the past is any sort of predictor of the future, this will not slow our development one bit, but it's still worth noting.

    • It seems like lasers should be used for defense before offense. A tank outfitted with a laser defense system capable of destroying incoming tank rounds or anti-tank missiles, and ground explosives, would be a pretty formidable weapon on the field. It would need to be saturated with fire in order for a hit to be scored, which would be a major problem if you're facing those without a huge size advantage. The same for planes, let the lasers handle the incoming missiles while the plane drops its bombs.

  • Energy density (Score:5, Informative)

    by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <richardprice AT gmail DOT com> on Monday May 09, 2016 @08:55AM (#52074773)

    Have laser power requirements really changed that dramatically since the Boeing YAL-1 project ended? The chemical oxygen iodine laser aboard the YAL-1 was a 1MW laser, and destroyed its targets (ICBMs) by heating the target until its fuel tanks ruptured - it didn't destroy the target in the traditional sci-fi sense of directed energy weapons...

    Whether you can use the same approach for enemy aircraft, tanks etc remains to be seen - it will probably be more likely that such targets need an ablative weapon to be destroyed, as jet fuel can be heated considerably more than the pressurised tanks on an ICBM.

    The YAL-1 carried enough fuel for 20 shots at 1MW strength, and it needed a Boeing 747 to carry it, so the summaries "thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel" sounds a little ... optimistic when you consider the energy densities in play.

    • by orlanz ( 882574 )

      Yeah, we keep getting this "Laser based weapons platforms" stuff every once in a while. I guess to keep the funding going. "Until miniaturization" is something I been hearing since the 90s.

      But they never really tell us how they solved the energy density problem. Planes fly so weight is pretty much the main concern. I never understood how a powerful enough laser could offset the weight of its power source. It goes to the battery problem. And if we solve that, there are a heck of a lot of applications i

      • Yeah, we keep getting this "Laser based weapons platforms" stuff every once in a while. I guess to keep the funding going. "Until miniaturization" is something I been hearing since the 90s.

        But they never really tell us how they solved the energy density problem.

        They've developed transparent aluminum, allowing the shark tank walls to be MUCH thinner and lighter.

        • Yeah, we keep getting this "Laser based weapons platforms" stuff every once in a while. I guess to keep the funding going. "Until miniaturization" is something I been hearing since the 90s.

          But they never really tell us how they solved the energy density problem.

          They've developed transparent aluminum, allowing the shark tank walls to be MUCH thinner and lighter.

          zomg, so they will carry sharks with lasers on their heads in transparent aquariums on aircraft!

      • Energy density solution?

        Elon Musk's Telsa batteries of course.

    • The chemical oxygen iodine laser aboard the YAL-1 was a 1MW laser, and destroyed its targets (ICBMs) by heating the target until its fuel tanks ruptured - it didn't destroy the target in the traditional sci-fi sense of directed energy weapons...

      How long will these fighter pilots have to keep the target in the sights before they get it hot enough to be destroyed? Once a bullet hits the target, the target is destroyed.

  • Stupid. Enemy planes will just carry a bag of unpopped popcorn as a countermeasure. Lasers cannot penetrate popcorn as we all know...
  • I wonder what you have to do to do sufficient damage to an enemy?

    They talk about starting with 10kW lasers; Steel has a specific heat of about 0.5, so if you trained the laser on the target for one second, you could vaporise a little over six grams of steel (not counting losses from transmission through the air, reflection etc) I can see that if you're using your laser to assassinate someone from a drone, that's certainly enough to kill someone, but is it enough to destroy a truck or an aeroplane? Is the la

  • Rail gun is better (Score:4, Insightful)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @10:09AM (#52075183) Journal
    Laser far too easy to counter. Smoke and larger air particles can counter for ground troops. For missiles, drones, and airplanes simply roll or make the exterior 'wiggle'. But a rail gun with say a varying 1-16 mj esp with smart ammo, is going to produce hits regardless of counter measures.
    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      " Smoke and larger air particles can counter for ground troops."

      At the powers stated, smoke and other particulates would get OBLITERATED.

    • A laser attack is at the speed of light- not much time to deploy smoke.
  • ... will certainly have to be redefined.
  • Can't wait until we have the return of battleships armed with a Wave Motion gun [youtube.com] and maybe with this advancement it won't take so long to charge.
  • and up you a bigger, better mirror!

    • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

      I rather prefer the Larry Niven solution - a cloud of water vapour in between you and the source. Makes for a very bright cloud, of course.

      Laser hits optical sensor, sensor overloads. System oversight warns pilot that laser weapon is active, gives likely coordinates, pilot fires chaff or water vapour missile, and bugs out. Of course, those are defensive weapons, occupying precious hard points, but maybe that can be the job of a "protector" wing, accompanying the attack/bomber aircraft.

      Or the remaining - pre

  • Oh come ON.
    Not a single post complaining about the wasted funding to mount laster of fighters before we have bridged the "sharks with frickin' lasers attached to their heads" gap?
    What is wrong with you people!??!

    Ill leave it to someone else to work in "ONE MILLION DOLLARS"
  • They completely missed out on naming it the high energy laser light optical weapon or "Hello weapon."
  • They should put them in civilian airliners too.
    Its an immediate and effective solution to idiots who shine laser pointers into cockpits, and/or fly their drones in airport airspace.

  • This is great for defense. Unlike some people have said, you don't need to physically destroy the entire missile engaging you. For IR heat-seekers, you just have to blind the seeker. For radar guided missiles, deform the radome. Missiles tend to travel at high speeds, if you can screw up the radome or any part of the structure sufficiently it'll make a big difference to the attacking missiles pk (probability of a kill).

    Your same offensive weapon makes an awesome countermeasure against HOBS (High-Off-Boresight) stuff that someone might launch using a HMCS (Helmet Mounted Cueing System). If you have decent secure networking, there's no reason why a bunch of your team couldn't target the same target too. So instead of being hit by one laser, you hit the target with N lasers. The enemy having better kinematics becomes moot too. A rotating mirror can rotate much faster than even the most maneuverable airframe.

    The best countermeasure to this stuff if you don't have equivalent stealth? It's tough. You can't detect attackers well enough to get a firing-solution, you have nothing on your warning receivers for your team. Best case, let's say you know somethings up there due to VHF radar. So you send up your stuff, and all of them just get swatted from the sky. You ask your best engineers what to do about it, and they say 'Our best idea is to make the environment so nasty we deny the enemy access'. How do you do that? Nuke your own airspace. If you can't see the enemy but your assets start exploding, fire off a pile of SAMS (in nice solid reflective casings, no fine guidance necessary) and nuke your own the airspace.

    If they are at altitude then that's one thing (not much fallout). If they are using terrain shadowing / strike teams going in to take out your ground assets, then you are talking about basically carpeting yourself with fallout.

  • First of all, most of the people who are posting here don't know squat about laser types, and I'd guess that most of the people reading here that do know about laser types and the JSF plans for same aren't talking.

    I'll just state for the record that there are lots of laser types other than chemical or diode.
    I'll also point out what should be obvious: controlling the beam's phase as well as pointing accuracy is critical to achieving high power density on target.

  • Soon, instead of just blowing the Wrong Religion Brown People to bits, now we're also going to intentionally blind even more, just to make sure their families and tribes never stop hating us, thus ensuring permanent, profitable war.
  • I'd need to know if we're the good guys or bad guys.

  • The Navy did this first. They just strap together a few 10 kW industrial welding lasers.

    The problem is that heat dissipation is a major issue, even on a Navy ship where weight doesn't really matter. The business end can be mounted on a standard gunnery mount of a ship – yes. But below-deck is a gigantic transformer to power the laser, and those things get HOT. Cooling at that scale requires liquids, not heat-pipes, making the whole systems extremely heavy.

    The won't be in fighter jets for another 2

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